Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pistachio-Crusted Tofu with Shredded Brussels Sprouts

This recipe arose from a big bag of pistachios and a craving for Brussels sprouts. Don't be put off by the monochromatic picture; it looks better in person and could easily be accompanied by other colorful sides (mashed sweet potatoes, maybe?) if you're concerned about presentation. I served mine with some brown rice I had on hand. The tofu is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and the shredded Brussels Sprouts are a tangy accompaniment. If you don't want to use nutritional yeast, I'm sure that bread crumbs would work. In place of the champagne vinegar, you could also try white wine or a bit of lemon juice.

Pistachio-Crusted Tofu
Makes 1 serving

• 1/4 cup pistachios, ground or chopped
• 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
• 1/4 package (2 ounces) extra-firm tofu, patted dry and cut into 2 slabs
• 1 tbsp dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400°. Mix the pistachios and nutritional yeast on a plate. Coat each piece of tofu with the honey mustard (you probably won't need all of it- just enough for the coating to stick). Coat the tofu in the pistachio and nutritional yeast mixture. Place the tofu on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning once.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts
Makes 1 serving

• 1 cup shredded Brussels sprouts (about 5 medium)
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 2 tsp champagne vinegar
• salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the shredded Brussels sprouts in the olive oil. Test a piece of the base of a cabbage, and once the sprouts are cooked through, turn off the heat and toss the sprouts in the champagne vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fig, Blue Cheese, and Pistachio Salad Wrap

I don't think I had ever made a salad wrap before this week, but I've been making them every day for lunch recently. They can be put together so quickly, and are easy for me to take to campus when I don't have time to go home for lunch. Since my last post, I've come up with a better way to make the wrap, and that is to wrap it up in aluminum foil as I roll it. It allows me to transport the wrap without the salad falling out of one end since I like to keep one end open (which lets me put more salad in it). As I eat the wrap I peel the foil off in layers, and the wrap stays together beautifully.

This morning, right before I made the day's salad wrap, I told my roommate that I was developing an obsession with them, and her response was: "Eww!" But I explained that these are fancy salad wraps, not the Caesar-soaked lettuce wrapped in a tortilla that you'd find at one of our law school lunches. (That is, before the economy tanked and we stopped getting free food) She had to agree that lavash bread wrapped around spring greens, dried figs, blue cheese, and pistachios is an entirely different species of wrap.

If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, that would be a great place to get the main ingredients for your dish. They sell everything except the vinaigrette, and at great prices. If you don't want blue cheese, I think goat cheese and fresh mint would be a great substitution.

Fig, Blue Cheese, and Pistachio Salad Wrap
Makes 1 wrap

• 1 lavash bread
• a couple handfuls of spring greens
• 5 dried black mission figs, sliced
• 3 tbsp dry roasted pistachios
• 3 tbsp crumbled blue cheese
• 2 tbsp Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette

Mix it. Wrap it. Eat it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Exotic Salad Wrap with Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette

This salad wrap and dressing was inspired by the Mixto Exotica Salad at Julia's Bistro in Houston, Texas. The Mixto Exotica is a bed of greens with mango, papaya, pineapple, diced red pepper, plantain chips, and a Tahitian vanilla-shallot vinaigrette. Even though I'm not a big fan of fruit, this was the best salad I've ever had. I made my own version of the vinaigrette which I first used on a salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, and mint. This time I went with a salad wrap that is a lot closer to the spirit of the Mixto Exotica.

Since I'm usually only cooking for myself and this dressing does take more effort than just mixing up some vinegar and oil, I make a batch and then freeze it. It is completely worth the little bit of effort required to make this light, sweet, unique dressing. I hope you'll give it a try!

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

• 6 medium shallots, diced
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
• 1 tbsp honey
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Dice the shallots and sauté them in 1 tbsp olive oil. Blend the shallots and the rest of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Exotic Salad Wrap
Makes 1 wrap

• 1 piece lavash bread
• a couple handfuls of spring greens mix
• 1 mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
• 1 ounce plantain chips
• 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
• 2 tbsp Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette

Mix the salad ingredients (everything except the lavash bread) with the dressing. Lay the lavash bread with the longest side running from left to right on a flat surface and top it with the salad mixture, leaving about two inches uncovered around the bottom and the right side. Roll up the lavash bread from left to right.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Amy's Low Sodium Cream of Tomato Soup

Amy's Low Sodium Cream of Tomato Soup is the best tomato soup I have EVER had. It's so good that I had to take a picture of it with my iPhone while I was at my internship, and then immediately blog about it.

I had bought the low sodium kind because Whole Foods was having a sale. I did not miss the salt at all- although I did add a few whole grain saltine crackers, so take that for what it's worth. It's a sweet, thick tomato soup that, despite the word "creamy" in the title, doesn't seem to have much cream in it. The creaminess seems to come more from the sun-ripened tomatoes than it does from the cream.

My favorite thing about this soup is that it's flavorful enough on it's own to be the star of the meal. I think that's rare with canned tomato soups. I usually think of tomato soup as an accompaniment to grilled cheese. Not this one. If you want a grilled cheese with it, you better class it up and make it with rosemary focaccia and smoked gouda.

By the way, I licked the bowl.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Veganomicon-Inspired Tomato Couscous

I love "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. One of my favorite recipes I've made from it is Tomato Couscous with Capers. Boyfriend wasn't a big fan, but I like it enough that I'll make it for us whether he eats it or not. A few nights ago I had planned on making the original version, but I was feeling too lazy to chop an onion or add spices. Instead, I tweaked the recipe a bit, mainly by using fire-roasted tomatoes instead of regular diced tomatoes. 3 ingredients and barely any work later, here you go:

Veganomicon-Inspired Tomato Couscous
Makes 4 side-dish servings

• 3/4 cup whole wheat dry couscous
• One 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
• 2 tbsp capers, drained

Drain the liquid from the fire-roasted tomatoes into a measuring cup and reserve the tomatoes. Pour 3/4 cup of the liquid into a pot and bring to a boil over medium-heat. If you don't get 3/4 cup of liquid from the tomatoes, add however much water or vegetable broth you need to make it 3/4 cup. (My can of tomatoes yielded almost exactly 3/4 cup liquid.) Add the capers, tomatoes, and couscous to the liquid. Remove the pot from the heat, stir, and cover with a lid. The couscous is ready once the liquid is absorbed, which will take less than 5 minutes.

Nutrition Facts: 135 calories, 0.6 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 384 mg sodium, 29.9 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seitan with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olives

I love when I can make a quick, flavorful meal with only a few ingredients. A lot of these ingredients are left over from the pastry-topped portabellos that I made a few nights ago. The kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes really stand out in this dish.

Seitan with Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Kalamata Olives
Makes 1 serving

• 1 tbsp Earth Balance margarine
• 4 ounces (1/2 package) seitan, broken into bite-sized pieces
• 1 cup packed baby spinach, rinsed and drained but not dried
• 5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water until softened, then finely chopped
• 2 tbsp kalamata olive tapenade

Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add all of the ingredients and cover. Stir occasionally, until the spinach is wilted.

Nutrition Facts: 339 calories, 20.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 974.3 mg sodium, 15.6 g carbohydrates, 24.5 g protein

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pastry-Topped Portabellos

I made Pastry-Wrapped Portabellos from 1,000 Vegan Recipes for Thanksgiving, and Boyfriend LOVED them. I didn't have a rolling pin in Houston, so the pastry wrapping was pretty thick. Too thick for me, but just fine for Boyfriend. When I decided to make my own version of the portobellos last night, I had the same problem. No rolling pin, and no time to go buy one. That's why this dish is called "Pastry-Topped Portabellos". I thought one layer of pastry dough would be a better pastry-to-portabello ratio. Plus, this method is much faster and easier.

These ingredients are a pretty classic combo, so you could do a lot with any leftover ingredients. I think I'm going to make a pasta with them.

Pastry-Topped Portabellos
Makes 2 servings

• 2 large portabello mushroom caps
• olive oil
• 1/2 cup packed baby spinach leaves
• 7 sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil)
• 2 tbsp kalamata olive tapenade
• 2 tbsp goat cheese
• Frozen pastry sheets (you won't need a full package or even a full sheet)

Thaw the frozen pastry sheets for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl of very hot water to soften.

Remove the stems from the portabellos and set aside. Scrape out the gills with a spoon and discard. Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil, and add the portabellos, stem-side up. Cook the portabellos, adding more oil if necessary, turning once. When they have softened and cooked through, lay them stem-side down on a paper towel to cool and dry.

Finely chop the portabello stems. Rinse the baby spinach but do not dry. Add the portabello stems and spinach to the same pan, and sauté until the spinach is wilted and the stems are cooked. Remove from heat.

Remove the tomatoes from the water and chop finely. Mix together with the portabello stems, spinach, tapenade, and goat cheese.

Place the portabello caps stem-side up on a nonstick baking sheet. Fill each one with half of the filling. Cut squares from the pastry-sheet that are just big enough to cover the tops of the portabellos. Press them on top of the stuff portabellos and cut two slits in the top. Put the topped portabellos in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Eat them soon after they come out of the oven, but do give them a little time to cool.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry

I gained about eight pounds during my summer of clerking at two law firms and having extravagant lunches, big dinners, and too many cocktails for 12 weeks. When the summer ended, I lost 3 pounds of my summer weight by just getting back to my normal eating and drinking habits, but in mid-November I decided I needed to work harder at getting rid of my summer baggage and the 6 pounds I had already gained in law school.

During the past two months, I've lost 7 pounds. That's not a huge number, but it's a healthy number. And I think it's pretty damn good considering that during that time period, I celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve without really holding back on those days. A HUGE factor in my weight loss has been exercise, but diet has also been an important part of it. I've been trying to use less oil in my cooking and have paid much more attention to my portion sizes. I'm also always looking for new, healthy, dishes that will fill me up without all the calories. This curry is one of those dishes.

A 1-cup serving of this curry has about 174 calories, 6.9 g fat, 3.6 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 458 mg sodium, 26.3 g carbohydrates, and 5.9 g protein (but this may vary somewhat depending on what coconut milk you use and how much salt you add). And, it's loaded with vitamins and minerals. Some people may be put off by the coconut milk because of the saturated fat- but come on people, everything in moderation!

This is a mildly spiced curry, but you could definitely make it spicier by adding peppers. It has a creamy texture from the coconut milk and sweet potatoes, but a little crunch to it from the cauliflower. I ate a serving of this curry for lunch today with a serving of brown basmati rice. A 314-calories meal and I'm stuffed and happy!

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry
Makes 6 1-cup servings

• One 14-ounce can light coconut milk
• 1 tsp ground cardamom
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp curry powder
• 2 tsp brown sugar
• 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 large sweet potato, cut into about 1/2-inch cubes
• 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
• One 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• salt to taste (I added 1/2 tsp- it didn't need much)

In a large pot (I didn't have a pan big enough), add the coconut milk, cardamom, cinnamon, curry powder, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes and heat over medium-high heat. When the coconut milk is simmering, add the sweet potato and toss to cover with the sauce. Cover the pot and let simmer for about 10 minutes. When the sweet potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, but before they've turned to mush, add the cauliflower and chickpeas. Toss the mixture with the sauce, and cover, continuing to simmer. Stir occasionally. The curry is ready when the cauliflower is cooked. The sweet potatoes should have broken up into the sauce, with some small pieces here and there. Salt to taste, and serve.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My first soy yogurt smoothie

Even though I haven't been eating vegan lately, I've been trying to buy fewer dairy products. When I decided to make Indian food, I bought plain soy yogurt instead of the plain yogurt I used to buy. To use some of it up, I made this smoothie with 1 cup soy yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, and 1 cup strawberries. I'm not a big fan of blueberries (I was just trying to use up some that Boyfriend had bought), but the soy yogurt is a winner! The smoothie ended up sweeter than if I had used silken tofu, and it didn't have that something's-not-quite-right-here taste that my silken tofu smoothies sometimes have. Silken tofu, you have officially been replaced.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mint Cucumber Raita

This is not a very original recipe (nor is it a very good pic- sorry). I was dreaming up a swiss chard wrap and was trying to think of a sauce I wanted to go with it. "Chard tastes like beets... what's good with beets? Mint and goat cheese... but maybe yogurt instead of the goat cheese. Mint and yogurt... and cucumber. Cucumber would be good with that. It would be like a mint cucumber raita! Oh wait, that exists already." Even though this is not a creative sauce, I want to give you the recipe anyway because it is a sauce worth making. 3 ingredients and very little prep time yield a cool, refreshing sauce that can compliment a spicy dish or enhance a milder one.

Mint Cucumber Raita
Makes about 5.5 ounces

• 1/2 cucumber, peeled, grated, and squeezed of excess liquid
• 1/2 cup soy (or regular) yogurt
• 1/4 cup finely chopped mint

Once you mix the ingredients, this sauce is ready to go. This will yield a fairly thick sauce, but keep in mind that if you put it in the fridge and use it the next day, the cucumber will have released more water into the yogurt and will be runnier. I used some two days after I made it and the sauce was thinner, but still went very well with my lunch of rice, pigeon peas, and red pepper seitan.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Red Pepper Seitan

The picture above is what I took for lunch today for my internship: red pepper seitan, brown basmati rice, and sweet-and-sour toovar dal. The toovar dal is from Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian". I think I did something wrong (maybe I wasn't supposed to drain the pigeon peas, but there was just way too much liquid!) but they were still pretty good.

This Indian-inspired red pepper seitan dish was really easy to prepare and only uses 5 ingredients. It's high in protein and doesn't contain any oil other than that already in the seitan. On top of that, it's so yummy!

Red Pepper Seitan
Makes 4 small servings

• 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
• 1 serrano chili, stem end cut off and roughly chopped (don't remove the seeds)
• 1 pound seitan (I used West Soy traditional seitan because I didn't feel like making any)
• 1/4 cup plain soy yogurt (or regular plain yogurt if you don't care whether it's vegan)
• 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Put the red pepper and serrano chili into a blender and blend into a smooth sauce. (If you taste it at this point, it will be REALLY spicy, but it will cool down!) Pour the sauce into a pan, add the seitan, and heat over medium-high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the yogurt and cilantro, and remove from heat. If you plan to serve this with rice, you might want to make extra sauce, especially if reheating it as a leftover.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Life Without Cooking

I haven't had many chances to cook a real meal in the past month. December is often like that because of finals and the holidays. My mom does the cooking (even though she hates doing it), and I do the eating. I had been looking forward to the chance to try some new recipes once the new year started, but instead I opened 2010 with a case of food poisoning. It only lasted a day and a half, but I haven't had what I'd consider a "real meal" (grain + vegetables + protein) since then. Tomorrow I head to Dallas for a wedding, so I won't be cooking for myself until next week. For now, I'm occupying my spare time by fantasizing about what I'll cook myself. I might fall back on an old staple like my tofu kale bowl, or try something new from one of my 3 new cookbooks: World Vegetarian, 3o-Minute Vegan, or The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen.

While fantasizing about food and reading about anything food related online, I came across an article by Roger Ebert. A surgery left him unable to eat or drink, and he writes about his memories of food and what he misses the most. Take a look at the article- it's a good read: